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Conservative Party Leader Resigns Day After Elections

September 16, 1987

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Conservative Party chairman Rolf Presthus announced Tuesday he was resigning, a day after his party suffered setbacks in local elections.

Both the Conservatives, the largest opposition party, and the governing Labor Party headed by Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, lost about 2.8 percent of the vote in the Sunday-Monday balloting, compared with the local elections in 1983.

But Presthus, 51, said his decision to step down ″was not influenced by the election results.″

″This was my own decision ... it was taken last summer″ after the Conservative Party failed to form a coalition government, he said. He told reporters he would quit at the party’s convention next spring.

The far-right Progress Party scored substantially, receiving 12.2 percent of the vote, up 5.9 percent from the 1983 elections. That put it in third place among the 11 parties that had candidates for seats in 19 county councils and 448 municipal councils.

Mrs. Brundtland, 48, said the swing to the right would have no effect on her government but the next general election in 1989 ″will be a big challenge.″

Election officials said Monday that thousands of ballot slips for the Progress Party were missing at polling places in Oslo, and that could cause new elections in the capital. But Progress Party leaders said Tuesday they would not appeal the results.

The Progress Party doubled its representation in Oslo’s 85-member city council fromn 8 to 16.

Reports by the national NTB news agency showed Labor remained the largest single party with 36.1 percent of the vote. It was followed by the Conservative Party with 23.6 percent and then the Progress Party. The Communist Party received 0.3 percent.

The Progresss Pary had campaigned on reduced taxes and government spending and a curb on immigration. Mrs. Brundtland said, ″Our setback was hardly caused by one single issue, but the immigratioin issue contributed to the Progress Party’s gains.″

Progres Party leader Carl Hagen said his party has become a refuge for people unhappy with the country’s costly social welfare system. The party made its biggest gains in the larger cities, where most immigrants live.

NTB said Presthus probably will be succeeded as Conservative Party leader by Jan P. Syse, 56, who recently replaced former Prime Minister Kaare Willoch as the party’s parliamentary leader.

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